I was pursuing the wasp around the kitchen, as you do, with a glass tumbler and a piece of cardboard. I was waiting for it to settle. Several of the cats had a go at it, but I managed to thwart them. Henry, however, was too quick for me. The wasp was gone, down inside him, and as with Browning’s Last Duchess, all buzzes stopped together. Surely it must have stung him all the way down? I waited, aghast, for his little oesophagus to start swelling up, for the gasping, the terrible whining indrawn effort at breath –
I was wondering if the vets had those pens you were supposed to stab people with when they accidentally ate peanuts. Were there those pens for cats? Would the vets have them. They were only a small vets, not much room for supplies. Should I just bundle him in the car and drive the six miles to the surgery? Would I have to burst in in some awful melodramatic way? Please – my cat – he’s swallowed – a wasp – ! Every bone in my non-melodramatic body rebelled against it. I simply couldn’t draw attention to myself. But I must.
Henry was probably dying of a wasp.
But if he was dying, he’d probably be dead by the time I got there anyway. Suppose I got to the car park with him in his little box and he was lying there, all golden and expired? I could hardly walk in, in front of the gloomy waiting hordes and their miscellaneous creatures, who would turn their gloomy waiting eyes upon me, expecting entertainment. What could I say?
Excuse me. My cat just died in the car. Of a wasp. Yes, a few seconds ago. Maybe we could arrange a cremation?
Henry continued to occupy the sunlit windowsill, bolt upright. He licked his lips several times. Oh My God, I thought, this is it, the wheezing, the –
What did you have to go and do that for? I asked. I sounded rather petulant.
Henry inspected his immaculate, pale gold coat – the faintest of stripes therein. He licked his lips again, and did not die.
Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands,
Then all smiles stopped together.